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2018 predictions for smart cities by Dan Evans, Senior Director, Smart Cities, Silver Spring Networks

As we approach 2018, the future looks bright for smart city technology

2018 predictions for smart cities by Dan Evans, Senior Director, Smart Cities, Silver Spring Networks

1.How will utilities think about smart cities in 2018?

Utilities don’t get enough credit in the industry for their leadership in building out smart cities and broader IoT use cases. Utilities have been playing a key role in powering their communities for over a century.


And over the past few years, we’ve seen more examples of this as utilities have been working with cities within their respective territories to enable new applications through the development of the smart grid and sharing access to that network infrastructure, such as when a water utility has asked a power utility to lease its network for enabling smart water meters.


It’s this “single network, multiple applications” concept that has always been our vision in helping utilities remain a key contributor in the communities they serve, through working with a variety of key city stakeholders. Now, more than ever, there are opportunities for utilities to take on 21st century challenges and help build out smart cities.


There are three key elements driving the industry’s transformation:

1) Radical change in consumer power;

2) Increase in distributed generation;

3) Greater need for utility/city partnerships.


Utilities, in partnership with city and state government, have opportunities to ensure infrastructure is optimized for power grid generation, distribution and deliver to the end customers. This infrastructure can strengthen our communities through a horizontal network canopy model connected by other ‘things’ in our cities. This in turn may open up new revenue models for the unregulated arms of the utilities.


As utilities look beyond their core services (delivering energy to customers), many are finding smart lighting is the next logical application. In the U.S., many utilities manage or own a large percentage of the community street light assets. When an established smart grid network already exists, it can be leveraged to connect the street lights to enable enhanced energy savings and improved maintenance. This is just one obvious example of extending the network to support other applications. There are many more applications being considered and developed which we will begin to see in 2018.


Beyond cities, state or national governments will have to step up to support smart city initiatives. Nationally, and regionally, utilities will be driven by business use cases, while cities will be driven by citizens public safety and quality of life benefits.


2. How are cities using data in their smart cities initiatives?

Connecting and correlating smart city data, across multiple use cases, will give cities and municipalities greater insightsof how to make their city more efficient and resourceful. Similar to the smart grid, in order to connect a wide range of assets and infrastructure across a city, a robust, secure and scalable network platform is needed for smart cities to allow each asset or device to interact in real-time with the surrounding environment and adapt accordingly.


Once they have the data, cities and municipalities can apply advanced analytics to glean insights into where they have problems and how they can improve city services. With these insights, cities and municipalities can better understand what their citizens need, better manage city resources, improve operational efficiencies, deliver new services and strengthen community relationships. And the city doesn’t need to do this alone! There are many companies, big and small, who are dedicated to data analytics and “deep learning” and just thirsting for data sets to work on.


Building a smart city also requires partnership and collaboration across businesses, government, technology companies and even academia. As the number of sensors deployed across the city increases, so does the amount of data collected from the sensors. In order to make sense of all the raw data, and derive real, actionable events, there will need to be multiple parties contributing to the analysis and solution. Take Smart Parking as an example. Data collected by sensors in the streets or by cameras on poles, will indicate whether a parking space is occupied or available. This data needs to be distributed to multiple parties, including citizens or visitors who are seeking a parking spot and also a parking officer who is policing the parking spots to identify violators and issue tickets. The data could also be combined with traffic congestion data and way-finding signage to steer drivers away from, and around, the areas of highest congestion. This is just one example of how smart city data can benefit both the citizens and the city government.


3. Will 2018 be the year of the U.S. smart city? Are European cities ahead of the U.S. when it comes to IoT innovation?

This is like comparing apples and oranges. The European market works and operates differently to the U.S. market. However, I think the U.S. can benefit from taking a page from the European smart cities playbook. European cities are progressive in their use of technology, especially when it comes to energy savings and environmental benefits from reducing carbon footprint.

In 2017, the U.S. saw major developments and deployments on the smart city front, including leading cities like Chicago who are progressing on their major smart infrastructure plans to enable wireless controls on its street lighting assets across the Windy City. This follows the smart lighting trend which we’ve seen in other U.S. cities such as Providence and Miami.


Beyond that, the smart city movement is a global trend. Especially as our world becomes more connected, cities aren’t only competing with each other regionally, but on a global stage. Especially in emerging markets, we are finding that there is just as much – if not more – significance on smart cities. For instance, according to Deloitte, the smart city market is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2019. But the U.S. shouldn’t downplay its experience either. The U.S. has one of the most mature smart grid programs in the world, and as one of the first waves of the IoT, this expertise is crucial in being able to successfully deliver on any other future smart city service.


Dan Evans is Senior Director of Product Management at Silver Spring Networks, where he defines the product roadmap for the Smart Cities and Smart Lighting business unit. Dan joined Silver Spring in 2007 and was instrumental in building the product, processes and team who took Silver Spring Networks installed base from 5,000 units when he joined to over 27 million today.



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